Vanishing Animals ContentAfrica's animals are under siege, with more and more of our precious species experiencing rapid population declines.

Africa's animals are under siege, with more and more of our precious species experiencing rapid population declines. Paradoxically, some popular tourist destinations across sub-Saharan Africa sometimes have seemingly large populations of certain species, like elephants, penguins, lions, and grey parrots - leading to the mistaken belief that these species are safe and secure, even common.

 In fact this perception of a species being locally common is the basis of many justifications to cull, hunt or trade in certain species. These islands of populations are scattered across Africa and are becoming increasingly isolated - cut off from each other by human encroachment and by direct persecution. The rapid population declines in the areas, which surround and connect these islands to one another, is of great concern. How long before iconic tourist areas start reporting declines in populations of iconic species? Perhaps this already happening.

Talented professional photographer Will Burrard-Lucas spends many hours out in the field, and has observed this process in action. He shares with us some species that are in rapid decline that are close to his heart.

black rhino

Black Rhino 

"Black rhinos were once plentiful in Zambia but in the 1970s and 1980s they were poached to extinction. A collaboration between Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the Zambian Wildlife Authority has now seen them reintroduced to North Luangwa National Park. I spent a couple of weeks working with FZS to track and photograph the rhinos. For this image, I set up a DSLR camera trap using a prototype version of the Camtraptions PIR Motion Sensor that I developed. It was around the time of a new moon so I set up the camera to record the spectacular starry sky. I left the camera in position for about a week in order to capture this shot."

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

Current numbers of black rhino populations are 90% lower than they were three generations ago, and only 5,055 are estimated to still roam the continent.

   

THREATS:

Large-scale poaching for the international rhino horn trade has been the biggest threat to black rhino populations. Unfortunately the political instability of certain countries on the continent has also had a negative role to play in this, as it is easier for poachers to infiltrate areas where law and order has typically broken down. Habitat loss is an additional key factor responsible for the black rhino's demise, whether this be in the form of logging or human settlement.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Critically Endangered.

   

HOW TO HELP:

Get involved by signing up for a free MySchool card and select the MyPlanet Rhino Fund as a beneficiary Click here  to read more and get a MySchool card. Every swipe counts

 penguine

Penguins

"Photographing penguins in Africa is a slightly incongruous experience! However, the sight of penguins on an African beach may not exist in the near future. The ease of seeing them at Boulders Beach, just a short drive from Cape Town, belies how endangered they are. The fact is, if the population decline is not halted, then the African penguin could go extinct within the next 20 years."

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

In the 1930s, South Africa’s largest penguin colony had one million African penguins, but by 2014 only an estimated 25,000 breeding pairs were estimated to remain across the whole of the country and Namibia.

   

THREATS:

As a result of commercial fishing, habitat loss, and oil spills, as well as a southern shift in their food source of anchovies and sardines that are migrating into cooler waters, African penguins are undergoing a very rapid population decline.

 

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Endangered

 

HOW TO HELP:

Thanks to organisations such as SANCCOB and their Chick Bolstering Project, many abandoned chicks have been rescued during moulting season, and 95,000 injured, oiled, abandoned or 'at risk' African penguins and other seabirds have been treated since 1968. If your heart skips a beat for these happy feet, you can support SANCCOB by making them a beneficiary on your MySchool card.

ethiopian wolf

Ethiopian Wolf

"This image is the result of a collaboration with my late friend, Rebecca Jackrel, and the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme. We raised the funds for this expedition through a Kickstarter campaign and in late 2011 we spent five weeks in Ethiopia documenting the lives of the wolves and the conservation challenges that they face. "

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

Endemic and confined to isolated mountain ranges in the Ethiopian highlands, it is estimated that fewer than 450 individuals remain in six wild populations. This makes the Ethiopian wolf the rarest species of canid and Africa’s most endangered carnivore.

     

THREATS:

60% of all land above 3,200m has been converted into high-altitude farmland in Ethiopia, and this human encroachment is putting continuous pressure on habitat and resources for the Ethiopian wolf, especially considering overgrazing by domestic livestock. Road kills and shooting are secondary threats, in addition to outbreaks of diseases such as rabies and canine distemper.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Endangered.

grey crowned cranes

Grey-Crowned Cranes

"I have recently returned from five weeks in Liuwa Plain where I was working on a joint project with African Parks and Norman Carr Safaris. This turned out to be one of the best places that I have been for seeing large flocks of crowned cranes. Finding the cranes was the easy bit, but getting close enough to photograph them in a landscape devoid of cover was a different matter! After some perseverance, which entailed lying in a clump of long grass for quite a while, I managed to get this image."

 

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

Overall estimates suggest that there were 100,000 individuals in 1985, but now, according to the International Crane Foundation, only 30,000 remain across their range in Southern and East Africa. And there are further estimates that suggest that this species has declined by over 50% in the past 19 years alone.

 

THREATS: Habitat loss or deterioration of critical habitat due to overgrazing and heavy pesticide use, as well as the removal of birds and eggs for food and traditional uses, have contributed greatly to its dramatic decline. The international illegal trade is also to blame, along with power line collisions and inadvertent poisoning.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Endangered.

 verreauxs sifaka

Verreaux's sifaka

"I photographed this sifaka in Madagascar’s surreal spiny forest. So much of Madagascar’s unique wildlife is threatened that I could have chosen any number of lemur species to illustrate this article. 

      

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

The Verreaux's sifaka is suspected to have undergone a population reduction of around 50% in just half a century. If numbers continue to decline at such a rate, it is predicted that this species could soon be listed as Critically Endangered.

   

THREATS:

Political turmoil over the past decade in Madagascar has meant that armed groups have entered formerly protected areas to illegally harvest valuable hardwoods. Local communities also depend on charcoal for fuel and space for agriculture, but the resultant destruction of the sifaka's natural forest habitat is a major threat to the species. These primates are also hunted for their meat or sold to restaurants in towns as ‘delicacies' in spite of regional taboos about eating their flesh.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Endangered.

   

HOW TO HELP:

Help the WWF to continue its on-the-ground work in Madagascar so that it can influence environmental policy and grow its environmental education programme in local communities.

 

cheetah

Cheetah

"I photographed this beautiful female cheetah early one morning in Liuwa Plain. The evening before I had followed her until she bedded down, so I was able to find her again in the morning and photograph her just as the sun was rising. Everything came together when she stood up on a small termite mound to look out over the long grass for oribi."

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

Cheetahs now only exist in 10% of their historic range, and we've lost over 90% of the world's population of wild cheetahs in the past century.

   

THREATS:

90% of cheetahs in Africa live outside of protected parks and reserves, which makes them vulnerable to human conflict and to direct persecution. Rural farmers depend on their livestock and, as a result, these farmers have traditionally viewed predators such as cheetahs as a threat. Herd protection programmes that allowed for cheetahs to be killed on sight were popular during the 1970s and 1980s, and led to a rapid reduction in the numbers of wild cheetah. And bush encroachment, caused by the overgrazing of arid landscapes, results in the prolific growth of thornbush, which not only results in nearly impenetrable habitat, but it is also devastating for cheetahs as it causes permanent damage to their eyes. Capture for the pet trade is also a significant threat.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Vulnerable.

 forest elephant

Forest elephant 

"For as long as I can remember, the Congo has held a deep fascination for me. I jumped, therefore, at the opportunity to visit Odzala National Park in 2014. The Congo Rainforest didn’t disappoint, and I soon found myself surrounded by interesting creatures that I hadn’t encountered before in Africa, including forest elephants. This image is from a memorable encounter when an elephant crossed the river in front of my small boat."

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

Inhabiting the dense rainforests of four countries in west and central Africa, forest elephants are smaller than savanna elephants, and have straighter tusks that point downwards. About 62% of forest elephant populations have been killed for their ivory in the past decade alone, and they now can be found in only 25% of their former range.

   

THREATS:

Habitat loss and illegal hunting for bush meat and ivory are the forest elephant's biggest enemies. Not only are tens of thousands killed every year to meet the demands of the illegal ivory trade, but by 2007 the elephants’ former range had shrunk by almost two thirds. People forget that not only do commercial logging and mining industries destroy the forest elephant's habitat, but they also create easier access to remote forests for poachers.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Vulnerable.

   

HOW TO HELP:

Join the WWF's Stop Wildlife Crime campaign and push the US government to stand by its commitment to stop the ivory trade.

 

Vulture

White-backed Vultures

"This is another shot from my recent trip to Liuwa. I took it early one morning when I returned to the place where lions had been feeding on a kill the day before. This vulture had the same idea and was looking for any scraps that may have been left by the lions and hyenas."

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

This species may be the most widespread and common vulture in Africa, but it is now in rapid decline. It has declined by over 90% in West Africa, and only 40,000 individuals are thought to remain in Southern Africa. It has been asserted that if current levels of exploitation continue in South Africa, the species could become locally extinct by 2034 or sooner.

   

THREATS:

The steep decline in populations is attributed to habitat loss, declines in wild ungulate populations on which the vultures feed, collisions with power lines and poisoning.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Critically Endangered.

 

HOW TO HELP:

Support BirdLife South Africa by shopping for the sake of birds. Whether you choose to buy a calendar or download bird ringtones, your money will be going towards a good cause. Alternatively, you can even raise funds for BirdLife South Africa by making them a beneficiary on your School card. This allows you to shop guilt-free knowing that the more you spend, the more you'll be giving back to bird conservation efforts.

wilddog 

African Wild Dog

"In 2013 I spent a couple of weeks working with Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. This image was taken shortly after sunrise with my BeetleCam - a remote-control buggy that I created to take ground-level photographs of wildlife."

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

The African wild dog population is currently estimated at approximately 6,600 adults in 39 subpopulations, of which only 1,400 are mature individuals.

   

THREATS:

Populations of wild dogs continue to decline as a result of habitat fragmentation, which increases their contact with people and domestic animals, resulting in human-wildlife conflict and transmission of disease. Non-selective snares are also a massive problem for wild dogs as there are incredibly loyal, repeatedly returning to snared pack members and risking themselves becoming snared. This behaviour has on occasion led to entire packs becoming ensnared.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Endangered.

 

HOW TO HELP:

Help WildlifeACT to track African wild dogs by sponsoring a brand new satellite-tracking collar. This makes it possible to monitor these animals daily, which means that if they are injured, trapped in a poacher's snare, or have escaped from a reserve, help is not far away. The data collected is also important for research on animal movement patterns, population demographics and inter-species interactions - all of which helps future conservation efforts.

 

lion

Lion 

"I visited Shumba Camp in Busanga Plains specifically to photograph the impressive male lions that live in the area. It was the middle of winter and most mornings started with a blanket of mist hanging over the plains. Before sunrise on my first day, I heard this handsome male lion roaring nearby. It was a truly magical experience to follow him as the sun came up and the mist gradually burnt off."

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

Lion populations are thought to have declined by approximately 43% over a mere 21 years. Although found in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, lions now only occur in less than 20% of their historical range, and are restricted mainly to protected areas and surrounding conservancies. Due to large ranges, cryptic colouration, and their nocturnal and wary habits, lions are difficult to count, but there are thought to be between 18,841 and 31,394 individuals in Africa.

   

THREATS:

The main threats to lions are depletion of their prey base and indiscriminate killing, primarily with the aim of protecting human life and livestock. Habitat loss has also led to a number of sub-populations becoming small and isolated, while trophy hunting, although argued to have a net positive impact in certain areas, is also considered to have contributed to population declines in several countries.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Vulnerable. 

 western lowland gorilla

Western Lowland Gorilla: 

"Photographing gorillas in the Congo was an incredible experience. These gorillas have only recently been habituated to humans and as a result they seem more wild than their mountain cousins. This chap is the dominant silverback of one group and he was keen to assert himself. On more than one occasion he charged out of the undergrowth towards me.

   

LET'S TALK NUMBERS:

Although there are 95,000 remaining individuals living in the tropical forests of six African countries, the western lowland gorilla population has seen a steep 60% decline in its numbers over just 25 years.

   

THREATS:

Logging of their rainforest kingdom, as well as serious poaching for the bush meat trade are the main threats to this gorilla subspecies, as well as the sad reality of young gorillas being traded as pets. The Ebola virus has also had a significant effect on their numbers, and has virtually extirpated gorillas from a great deal of otherwise intact forest.

   

IUCN RED LIST STATUS:

Critically Endangered.